This month marks the 50th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s death and there are, not surprisingly, any number of new books and articles that would pluck at the heart of her mystery, so to speak – including Andrew Hansford and Karen Homer’s eye candy, “Dressing Marilyn” (Applause Theatre & Cinema Books), about William Travilla’s costume designs for the actress; and Lois Banner’s feminist reevaluation, “Marilyn Monroe: The Passion and the Paradox” (Bloomsbury). There’s also the soap operatic (read: addictive as a box of Godiva) NBC drama “Smash,” about the making of a Marilyn musical, and the recent “My Week With Marilyn,” in which Michelle Williams poignantly embodied rather than impersonated her.
Still, Marilyn remains a mystery. Prolific author Joyce Carol Oates – who captured her Marilyn in the novel “Blonde” and makes her the Black Dahlia’s roommate in the new story collection “Black Dahlia & White Rose” – told The New York Times recently that Marilyn is an icon, by which she meant she transcends her original meaning.
So what does she mean for our media-genic, post-feminist times? Oh, so many things. She’s a cautionary tale in an age obsessed with celebrity and the female body, a natural for our Twitter/YouTube culture.
But perhaps more important, she’s a touching reminder of what happens when you’re defined by the fragile shell each of us must ultimately exit. Another Times’ piece noted that for all the sexual allure she had for men, it is women who have kept her alive.
Why not? She was, after all, one of us.